Colchester County hears appellants opposed to release of fracking waste

Public hearings were held earlier this week by Colchester County (NS) on a decision they had made to allow Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS) to release “treated” fracking waste into the Debert sewage system. The Sewer Use Appeal Committee of Colchester Municipal Council chaired the meetings and heard the presentations by appellants on Monday and Tuesday evening, in front of a large crowd of interested members of the public (there were around 75 people there on Tuesday night).

During Tuesday evening’s hearing, Pat Vinish, Ken Summers, Mark Tipperman and I all presented (from the NOFRAC Steering Committee), as well as allies in the anti-fracking movement: Don Wilson, Roger Hunka (Maritime Aboriginal Peoples’ Council), Fred Blois, and Chief Bob Gloade of the Millbrook First Nation. Everyone spoke passionately and we all seemed to cover off different aspects that the Committee of Council needed to hear: concerns around the chemicals, precautionary principle, is it worth the risk, how to actually treat fracking waste, concerns with water, environment, long-term risks, opening the floodgates (NB and NL fracking wastes also to come) etc. etc...

The last presentation was AIS representative Clint Stewart. Mr Stewart presented some interesting information, including that they feel they can adequately treat the fracking waste (the NORMs) and release it into the sewer system, and also the total amount of fracking waste from this project that they are currently holding in a storage lagoon (or what we would call a tailings pond), which is 8.9 million litres, 3.6 of which they claim has already been treated for NORMS. Mr. Stewart’s presentation also included a lot of what I would consider irrelevant information, arguably to distract us from the proposal at hand.

Committee members asked good questions here and there of us, but they saved the bulk of their questions for AIS. One Committee member (Councillor Christine Blair) asked Mr. Stewart several pointed questions, including whether they have also accepted fracking waste from NB, to which the answer was yes. Another asked about accepting from Newfoundland and Labrador, but nothing has been finalized on that as of yet (despite Shoal Point Energy and Black Spruce, who are hoping to get approval to frack for oil on the West coast of NL, indicating in public meetings that their waste would be transported to NS; we can only assume it would be going to the AIS Debert facility).

There was an opportunity for members of the audience to make a brief presentation as well, and there were a few passionate speakers who got up to defend their Bay and to express their opposition to this approval, including a young woman who had grown up on the Bay of Fundy. It was great to see how engaged and passionate people were!

The committee wrapped up with many positive comments, indicated that the Committee would be meeting on the 14th to discuss, and reminded us the decision would be rendered on the 17th. The initial approval had indicated that May 26th was the first date any release of fracking waste could occur, so in the instance the Committee decides to AIS to release fracking waste, I am certain there will be interest in organizing an action in Debert... stay tuned!